The coronavirus outbreak that spread over several cities in China with dozens of deaths could force a change of plans for UFC fighters.
Celebrations started this past Friday for the China’s most important holiday, the Lunar New Year’s Eve, but it’s a different scenario on the streets today. With several cities on lockdown by order of the government, the population fears leaving their houses.
Weili Zhang, the company’s strawweight champion, defends her UFC gold against Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 7 in Las Vegas. Jingliang Li also competes that night, taking on Neil Magny, while Xiaonan Yan travels to Auckland to battle Karolina Kowalkiewicz on Feb. 22.
The trio of UFC fighters train in different gyms in Beijing, a city that to date hasn’t had any confirmed cases of coronavirus. But they still could be affected in different ways.
Ruy Menezes, who trains Li and Yan at China Top Team in Beijing, told MMA Fighting that the current plan is to fly to Auckland on Feb. 15, a week before Xiaonan’s fight, and then travel directly to Las Vegas for Li’s appointment at UFC 248.
Zhang co-headlines the March 7 card against Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and her team is confident they won’t have any issues before traveling to the United States.
“Weili and her camp have not been affected at all and have always kept a pretty tight circle,” Zhang’s manager Brian Butler told MMA Fighting’s Damon Martin. “She is having the best camp of her career so far.”
Top Rank had a boxing event scheduled for Feb. 1 in Haikou, China, with welterweight champion Jose Ramirez putting his title on the line against Viktor Postol in the main event. But the promotion recently announced the cancellation of the entire card.
Menezes’ gym will be closed until Feb. 1 for New Year’s holiday, and only athletes that currently have fights booked are going there to train, which includes ONE Championship flyweight Getu Hexi, who fights Adrian Mattheis in Singapore on Feb. 28.
“We’ll travel earlier to New Zealand if (the virus) comes to Beijing, but I don’t think that will be necessary,” Menezes said. “We’ll only do it if the worst happens, and I don’t even know if New Zealand would let people from China in if that was the case. But I don’t think that will happen because the Chinese government already has the cities that are dealing with this problem on lockdown.
“I’m going to the gym in the morning and then going back home. Life goes on, but we’re being careful. I’ve warned my jiu-jitsu students that if anyone is coughing or experiencing fever, cold or headache, don’t come to the gym when I reopen it, because I won’t let them in.”